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Jane Stirling:  an after-construction

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Version française du 7 juin 2010 | New research updated 9 March 2013
Regarding the rumours in October 1848 about Chopin
getting married, the "unmarried one" was obviously
Jenny Lind, soprano and philanthropist - not Chopin's
former pupil the Scottish spinster Jane Stirling.

Frederick Niecks, James Huneker, E.L. Voynich, Martial Douël, B.E. Sydow
and Arthur Hedley fabricated in 1888-1962 an after-construction to embellish
Jane Stirling's acquaintance with Chopin.  Later publications by Tad Szulc,
Marie-Paule Rambeau and other writers are also inaccurate on 1841-1849.
It is a finding of Icons of Europe's research in 2003-2013, which confirms
the initial conclusion of Chopin andThe Swedish Nightingale (2003).

Briefly, the newly re-established facts:

Portrait of Jenny Lind, 1846.  Oil painting replica by Eduard Magnus, 1861.  National Portrait Gallery, London.Jenny Lind (1820-1887), the celebrated soprano and wealthy philanthropist, meets Chopin many times in London in May-July 1848 as documented by his upbeat letters.  She tells exited a friend on 4 September that she is discussing a project with “one of Mendelssohn’s most intimate friends”.

Jenny Lind obtains a blank marriage allegation form stamped "London 28.9.48" and meets again with Chopin in Edinburgh.  Her letters and 1891 Memoir confirm the exit of her Swedish fiancé "G" by early October 1848.  Alone, Chopin walks the corridors of Calder House "with my doubts" (16 October).

In Chopin’s letter of 30 October 1848 to Wojciech Grzymala, Jenny.Lind fits the description of the unmarried “rich” woman, who is “too much like me”, and who should rather marry a “young and handsome” man. Chopin seems to refer to a young woman who can “sing”, as he ponders what happened to his "heart" and "strength". 

Jane Stirling (1804-1859), the Scottish spinster and Calvinist guarded by her elder sister Katherine Erskine (a widow since 1816), does not match Chopin’s above description of the “unmarried one”.  She was not rich and young;  nor could a "young and handsome" man have found her attractive.  Living on ca. £ 300 p.a, she could not have afforded to assist Chopin financially (e.g. 25,000 frs in July 1849, which beyond any doubt was an anonymous gift from Jenny Lind).

Evidence includes the will of 1816 of Jane Stirling's father* and her own will of 1859, her docile letters from 1850-1851, and her death certificate.  A.E. Bone (p. 100) cites Jane Stirling as “a hoarse-voiced, restless, invalid Scotch lady of some rank, mostly wandering about on the Continent” (quoting Thomas Carlyle in 1850).¹   Chopin wrote often about how "boring" he found the two Calvinist sisters.**

Previously manipulated and embellished:

No evidence exists to suggest a romantic relationship between Jane Stirling and Chopin.  Jane Stirling's acquaintance with Chopin in 1848-1849 has been distorted or embellished  by certain writers. – Notably:  In 1888 by Frederick Niecks citing rumours from 1844 and hearsay from 1848;²  in 1900 by
James Huneker (downplaying Jenny Lind, citing Niecks on Jane Stirling);  in 1931 by E.L. Voynich, the strange translator of Chopin's Letters, who placed a misleading footnote;  in 1932 by Martial Douël making, in a respected journal, the baseless if not preposterous claim of Jane Stirling being “in the lead” of “all of English high-society”;³  and by Bronislaw Edward Sydow (1953), A.E. Bone (1960) and Arthur Hedley (1962) publishing incorrect and misleading translations of Chopin's letter of 30 October 1848.*** 

Arthur Hedley, a noted English scholar and Chopin expert, goes even further to embellish Jane Stirling's acquaintance with unfounded statements in his 1947 biography of Chopin (p. 112).  For example, Hedley misuses an out-of-context and erroneous quotation of Jane Welsh Carlyle's letter of 4 August 1850 to raise the notion of 'Chopin's widow dressed in deepest morning'.¹  A.E. Bone duplicated this feint in 1960 (p. 61).

Evidence points to Jenny Lind as the prime source for initiating an Orphic / mythological movement in tribute to Chopin in the 1850s, which involved his friends (Clésinger, Kwiatkowski, Delacroix, Liszt, Berlioz, Viardot).  Grossly exaggerating, Arthur Hedley postulates that Jane Stirling "devoted herself to the cult of his memory".¹

This after-construction is reflected later in publications by other writers (e.g. Tad Szulc, Chopin in Paris, 1998;  Marie-Paule Rambeau, Chopin: L'enchanteur autoritaire, 2005;ª  John Rink and Jim Samson, Chopin Studies 2, Vol. 2, 2006).  A portrait of Jane Stirling as a young woman has provided a misleading impression.

In reality:

The Scottish sisters found an inexpensive apartment in London for Chopin in April 1848.  Then the sisters became convenient, well-meaning and possibly paid intermediaries for Jenny Lind, who had arrived in London at the same time.

That is:  they were a cover for Jenny Lind's meetings with Chopin in London and Scotland, and participants in the project of collecting, annotating and publishing his manuscripts and in the handling of his estate. - Why have scholars been so adamant to hide Jenny Lind?

Prof. Irena Poniatowska, the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw, writes about Jane Stirling:

"Our view of facts thought
to be known can change."
Chopin in the World

Jane Stirling:
"A hoarse-voiced, restless, invalid Scotch lady" - writes
Thomas Carlyle in 1850.¹

The Scottish sisters, Jane Stirling and Katherine Erskine.  Undated photo from Audrey Evelyn Bone, "Jane Wilhelmina Stirling", England, 1960 (p. 89).
The Scottish sisters,
Jane Stirling and Katherine Erskine.  Undated photo from:

Audrey Evelyn Bone,
Jane Wilhelmina Stirling:
The first study of the life of Chopin's pupill and friend,
England, 1960 (p. 89).
Incorrect:  Jane Sterling

* Extract of the will of 1816:

No wonder Chopin was "bored" by the two Calvanist sisters:  Calvinism is said to be best known for its doctrines of predestination and total depravity, stressing the absolute sovereignty of God.  Depravity = 'every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin'.

Arthur Hedley (in English) and B.E. Sydow (in French) manipulated the meaning of the original Polish text of 'letters came after Chopin' (i.e. forwarded in Scotland) to say that he received 'letters from the Scottish sisters every day'.
>> More

Hedley, unlike Voynich and Sydow, also distorted the sentence in which Chopin ponders about his "heart" and "strength" (p. 112 of Chopin).

Audrey E. Bone quotes the manipulated sentence about the "letters".  She replaced "young and handsome" with "well groomed" (p. 86-87)  - obscuring Jane Stirling being six years older than Chopin.

This manipulation of translations, together with Martial Douël's misinformation, constitute almost irrefutable
proof that Chopin does not refer to Jane Stirling on 30 October 1848, but to Jenny Lind.

More information will be published in 2013 by Icons of Europe.

¹ Thomas Carlyle, Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Longmans,
  Green, and Co., London 1883, vol. II, p. 113-114.  Carlyle also wrote in 1850:
  "... off she went and in three minutes brought back Miss Jane Stirling! — I felt
  ready to strangle her in the first moment — — but she looked so pale and
  grave — like the widow of Chopin — and was so friendly, and unconscious, to
  all appearance, of my dislike to her — that I behaved quite amiably after all".
  Arthur Hedley's 1947 biography of Chopin (p. 112) erroneously cited out of
  context:  « There can be no doubt that Jane Stirling was in love with him.
  During the remaining months of his life she was never far from him [yes,
  she stayed in St. German-en-Laye;  no Chopin letter mentions her after 28 July
and after his death she devoted herself to the cult of his memory [i.e. the
 shipping of Chopin's furniture to Warsaw and her contribution to the project of
 publishing his manuscripts;  the new research points to Jenny Lind being behind
 the cult and the project]
. »   Arthur Hedley continues the above sentence: 
 « Jane Carlyle Welsh describes how she saw her in London -- 'like Chopin's widow,'
 pale and dressed in deepest mourning. » -- While Carlyle may only have been
 flippant, Hedley manipulated the quote to give it a totally different meaning!

² Frederick Niecks, The Life of Chopin, 1888, vol. 2, p. 291-294.  The preface
  names Jenny Lind among his few surviving "chief sources of information".  The
  new research shows that she commissioned Niecks and her Novello friends for
  the biography project, and that the sections on 1848-1949 and the posthumous
  years bear evidence of misinformation, half-truths, omissions and telling hints.
  Niecks was at the time an unknown German viola player and organist in Dumfries.
  Today, a Google / Niecks book restricts  access to pages on Chopin's final months.

³ Martial Douël dismisses, in a 1932 article of The Musical Quarterly, Chopin's
  many meetings with Jenny Lind as  "One of the most curious episodes of his
  London visit".  Douël claims that Jenny Lind returned to Sweden in the summer
  of 1848, when she in fact continued to meet with Chopin on her regional tour
  of Britain as Chopin describes in the very letters Douël is using as his source.
  No information suggests Douël was a Chopin scholar.  Was Douël acquainted
  with Princess Winnaretta de Polignac or Nadia Boulanger in Paris?

ª Marie-Paule Rambeau, for example, says she has verified translations from
  Polish into French (p. 10), but she inaccurately paraphrases Chopin's important
  letter of 30 October 1848 as if he explicitly refers to "Jane" as his suitor (p. 839).
  Rambeau says that Chopin had earlier met Salis and Julie Schwabe in Paris at
  the banker Leo's place (p. 829).  She does not tell that this German couple, in
  whose house in Manchester Chopin stayed several days  in August 1848, were
  close friends of Jenny Lind whose tour schedule allowed her to stay with them in
  the same period (as Chopin implies in a letter).  In 1852, Jenny Lind married a
  cousin of the Schwabes, her accompanying German pianist Otto Goldschmidt.

  Rambeau repeats the myth of the "Stirling sisters" giving Chopin an anonymous
  gift of 25,000 francs in July 1849 (p. 864), although the Fryderyk Chopin Institute
  accepted in 2004 the new evidence of the two sisters not having access to such
  sums of which the wealthy Jenny Lind apparently was the donor (supported by
  Prof. Poniatowska's article in Chopin in the World 2003/2004).  The online
  Chopin biography of the Chopin Institute no longer refers to the 25,000 francs.
  The myth was planted in 1888 by Frederick Niecks, who admits tongue-in-cheek
  that it is a story "more like romance than reality".
  Rambeau makes in the index as many as 26 references to Jane Stirling extolling
  her acquaintance with Chopin, but only five references to Jenny Lind
  (about her singing performance rather than her relationship with Chopin).

This summary, copyright © 2003-2009 Icons of Europe,
B-1380 Brussels, may be quoted in part or be reproduced
as a whole, provided that the source is specified as:
"Cecilia and Jens Jorgensen, Icons of Europe, Brussels".

Portrait of Jenny Lind, 1846
Oil painting replica by Eduard Magnus, 1861
National Portrait Gallery, London